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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lactation Study: Done

For the last year we've been part of a UCD lactation study--Eddie and I were study subjects. The researchers just got approval for a 4 year extension in funding so we'll definitely sign up again when we have our next baby (even if we adopt the next one and breastfeed it--which we'd definitely do--they said we can participate!).

The study is looking at the effects of breastmilk sugars on the flora in babies' guts. Just last week the NY Times had a story about this project. And here is the National Academy of Sciences Proceedings paper where the information was originally published.

It feels really good to know that our efforts contributed to this type of work! (I can't be sure our samples contributed to the results in this publication since it was done in November of last year. But I know our data is part of the study so we'll have contributed to future works.)

I found out about the project from a fellow grad student, whose girlfriend is the post doc on the study. He asked if I'd like to do it and then had his girlfriend contact me. When I took child birth education classes at the local baby store, I heard about it again from the lactation consultant teaching the breast feeding part of the course.

So in my third trimester a lactation consultant came to my house, interviewed me to find out about my dietary habits and breast feeding history (my mom told me I didn't fully wean until I was 5 years old!), explained the study goals and how to collect samples, and had me sign a consent form. I was given a giant bag full of vials, tubes, swabs, and tongue depressors (for scooping up baby poop).
What's my reward for all this? Well, it made me feel like I was being scientifically productive during my stint as a full time stay at home mom. I was paid in Target gift cards as monetary compensation, too. But the BEST part (and the real hook for me and Dave) was that we got unlimited access to lactation consultants throughout the study. And let me tell you, with all the problems we had with feeding Eddie in the beginning, we definitely used this resource! And every time I came down with mastitis (4 or 5 times over 10 months--once REALLY badly) I was able to talk to them for advice. (In our town, lactation consultants bill out at $80-100/hour so we were really, really, really glad to be part of this study.)

For the past year we've had big bags of vials and a calendar of sampling dates sitting on the kitchen counter next to the spreadsheet where we keep track of Eddie's routine (eating, pooping, peeing, and most importantly, sleeping).
In the beginning we had to collect samples quite often:
But as time went on, the sampling became less frequent:
And some months we didn't have to do anything:
Every once in a while the study coordinator would come collect all our samples, give me the Target gift cards, and check to see how things were going. Having seen Eddie since the day he came home from the hospital, she liked being able to see him grow up. (She's also part of the on-campus breast feeding support group so she gets to see him there, too.)

It seems unreal that Eddie is nearly a year old already. I remember during his first week at home, sitting in the bed in the middle of the night trying to get him to breastfeed before finally finger feeding him some milk with a pipette (he wouldn't latch on), knowing that I'd have to go pump again after I finally got him to fall back asleep...and I thought to myself, "GOD this sucks! I thought breast feeding was supposed to be easy! And I can't believe I agreed to do this for 51 more weeks!!!!!!!!!!! I will never make it" (I had committed to one year both for the study and for myself, unless Eddie wanted to breastfeed longer than that...which apparently he does. Thank goodness breast feeding became the easiest thing in my life after about a month.) My gosh, how those 51 weeks flew by!
Breast milk, saliva, and stool samples (all Eddie's) were collected in designated vials, labeled, and stored in the freezer in a collection box.
I gave blood and saliva samples to the study (I'm glad that was all the bodily fluids they required from me!).

Dave was so supportive of our participation in the study--he'd remember when to take samples and would work hard scraping up the liquidly breast milk poops to get enough into the sample vial (they needed a teaspoon). Whenever a lactation consultant came to help us with breast feeding, he was right there with me, asking questions and learning techniques on how to get a better latch. I hope he takes pride in his contribution to the study results, too. He was definitely my breast feeding partner!


Team Roy said...

Go Julie! I feel like I say that a lot, but you are wonder woman. I'm so looking forward to nursing again. Its a bond and benefit like nothing else.

Kelly said...

Okay, what now about breastfeeding an adopted baby??? If you're still breast feeding Edie you would still be producing milk, but would your supply go back up enough to feed a newborn again? I can't believe how many questions this one idea has brought up in my head :D We'll have to have discussion about it at our next knitting get together :D